Generally Apoplectic About a General’s Beliefs

Los Angeles Times staff writer Richard T. Cooper, in an October 16th article titled, “General Casts War in Religious Terms,” waxed apoplectic about remarks made by Army Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence. What upsets Cooper is that Boykin, an evangelical Christian, translates his deeply-held religious convictions into a worldview pitting good against evil…God against Satan.

Moreover, General Boykin’s remarks to evangelical Christian congregations run counter to the multi-culturalist notion that all religions are equally valid and that the God Christians worship is the same one to which Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus and a host of navel-gazing idolaters extolling everything from nature to the divine feminine pay homage. To Cooper, the general’s remarks are all the more offensive since Boykin sometimes speaks from the pulpit while in uniform. Although Cooper might prefer he did so, General Boykin cannot leave his religious convictions at home when he departs for the Pentagon. Our worldviews, whether pathetically non-descript or deeply rooted, are indistinguishable from who we are.

What did the general say that was so offensive? Evidently, Boykin compared the Islamic terrorists who, on September 11, 2001, commandeered four airliners filled with innocent people and crashed them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania hillside with “hooded Christians who terrorized blacks, Catholics, Jews and others from beneath the robes of the Ku Klux Klan.”

I could be offended! A hundred years ago some of my ancestors were similarly accoutered “hooded Christians.” Growing up in rural Alabama in the fifties and sixties I knew several Klansmen. My disdain for their cowardice mushroomed when, in September 1963, a few of their more demented number blew up an African-American Baptist church in Birmingham killing three young girls. That particular cowardly terrorist act prompted me and many other southern whites to re-examine our attitudes on race. Consequently, some of us joined the fight to end segregation. By comparison, the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001 exceeded anything perpetrated by Klansmen throughout their miserable history. Right on, General Boykin!

What else does General Boykin believe? Like many Christians, he believes the power of Satan drives people to inflict evil on innocent people. Jews and Christians believe original sin resulted from Satan’s seduction of Eve in the Garden of Eden; that the human condition beset by wars, famine, pestilence and terror, issued from that “fall of man.” We also believe Satan, “the Prince of Liars,” always presents evil in the guise of good. This leaves us with a choice. Was it Satan who inspired the terrorists of September 11, 2001 or was it Allah? General Boykin would answer “Satan” because he does not believe Allah exists.

Those who believe in relative truth also think good and evil are relative; matters of personal perspective influenced by gender, class, race…even sexual-orientation. In the post-modern multiculturalist milieu every person becomes his or her own god. Such a worldview simply is incompatible with Christianity, Judaism or—for that matter—mainstream Islam, which is fiercely monotheistic.

Fact is, on September 11, 2001, Moslem terrorists attacked and killed three thousand innocent people, propelling America into war. Eliot Cohen, an orthodox Jew and director of the Johns Hopkins University’s School for Advanced International Studies, has deemed this the fourth world war. All wars have as their objective the breaking of the enemy’s will. Wars like the one in which we are currently engaged involve more than bombs on target or the clash of armies. Such wars are socio-cultural contests between competing worldviews. In the end, winning or losing World War IV will take more than precision guided weapons-whether guided by microchips or suicide-crazed jihadists slamming into targets. This war, like all wars, is a contest of wills and we should be thankful that General Jerry Boykin believes in a sovereign God whose will cannot be thwarted.

Earl H. Tilford

Earl H. Tilford

Dr. Earl Tilford is a military historian and fellow for the Middle East & terrorism with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College. He currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A retired Air Force intelligence officer, Dr. Tilford earned his PhD in American and European military history at George Washington University. From 1993 to 2001, he served as Director of Research at the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. In 2001, he left Government service for a professorship at Grove City College, where he taught courses in military history, national security, and international and domestic terrorism and counter-terrorism. Email: [email protected]

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